One of only a few hundred in captivity, an endangered Western lowland gorilla named Tiffany was euthanized at the zoo in Topeka Sunday after veterinarians discovered she was suffering from cancer of the ovaries that was inoperable.
Optimism fades into resignation.
When Tiffany’s handlers noticed she hadn’t been eating they hoped it was nothing serious. But when they also noticed she was constipated, they decided to run some tests which led to surgery last Wednesday to remove “a significant amount of stool” from her colon.
At first, they were optimistic. Zoo director Brendan Wiley wrote the next day, he hoped a “good flushing out” was all that she needed. But by Friday Tiffany had not improved and additional tests were ordered. The gorilla was taken Sunday for tests that revealed two tumors later identified as cancerous.
During surgery later that day, it became clear the cancer had advanced to the point it could not be effectively removed or treated. The doctors assigned to her care made the difficult decision to not wake her up after surgery. She died a short time later.
Tiffany was one of only a few Western lowland gorillas successfully bred while the mother was in captivity. Other than a few years at the zoo in Buffalo, where Tiffany was unable to mate with a male she’d been paired with, she spent most of her life at the Topeka Zoo where she seemed to take great delight interacting with her human handlers.
An estimated 150,000 to 250,000 Western (African) lowland gorillas are left in the wild. They are listed as critically endangered by the World Wildlife Fund due to loss of habitat, poaching, and susceptibility to diseases.
Gorillas typically live for 30 or 40 years in the wild. In human care, they can live into their 50s. Tiffany was 49.
Image Source: Flickr